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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae
Isaiah 6



Verses 5-7



Isaiah 6:5-7. Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts. Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar; and he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips, and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.

PREVIOUS to the full revelation of himself in the Gospel, God was pleased to communicate his mind and will to men by dreams and visions, which, since the completion of the sacred canon, are no longer to be expected. But we must not therefore imagine that the revelations so made are less interesting to us, than those which proceeded more immediately from the enlightening influence of the Holy Ghost. The same importance must be attached to every thing which God has spoken, so far at least as the instruction which is intended to be conveyed is itself important. For instance, the vision of Isaiah seems to have been a peculiar favour vouchsafed to him: but still it contains many instructive lessons for us: and in this two-fold view we will consider it,

I. As a peculiar favour vouchsafed to him—

That we may have a more distinct view of it, we shall notice in succession,

1. The vision given—

[The place where the prophet was supposed to be, was the outer court of the temple; from whence, the veil which separated it from the sanctuary being drawn aside, he beheld jehovah seated on his throne, and his train, like that of eastern monarchs, filling the temple. Had no additional light been cast on this vision in the New Testament, we should not have thought of inquiring more minutely about the glorious object whom he saw, and who is here so repeatedly designated by titles peculiar to the one supreme God; but we are authorized to declare, that the person whom he saw, was the Lord Jesus Christ, even our “Immanuel, God with us [Note: John 12:41.].”

Around the throne were “the seraphim,” the holy angels, like flames of file [Note: Psalms 104:4.], in a posture of devout adoration. Each of them had six wings; with two of which he covered his face, as unworthy to behold the Deity; and with other two, his feet, as unworthy to serve him: whilst with the remaining two he flew with all possible activity to fulfil his will. In themselves they were perfect and spotless creatures: yet, conscious of being as nothing in the sight of a pure and holy God, they were filled with profoundest awe, and served him with reverential fear.

In their worship of him they celebrated, in alternate and responsive songs, the holiness of his nature, and the wonders of his grace. Whether, in the repetition of the word “holy,” there be any reference, as some have thought, to the Three Persons of the Godhead, we undertake not to determine: but they evidently regarded the holiness of the Deity as that attribute, which constitutes the glory and perfection of all the rest: and indeed it is that attribute in which he is more especially glorious [Note: Exodus 15:11.], and at the remembrance of which the whole universe should give thanks [Note: Psalms 30:4.]. Together with this glorious subject they evidently combined the wonders of redeeming love. It is in that view alone that “the earth” can be said to be “full of his glory.” In the whole creation indeed there is a marvellous display of wisdom and power; but in redemption alone are seen the mercy, and truth, and faithfulness of our God. And though the seraphims are not interested in that work as we are, yet, as exhibiting the full radiance of all the divine perfections in united splendour, they admire it, they sing of it, they, glorify the Lord Jesus on account of it [Note: Compare Psalms 72:17-19. where the same person is spoken of, and the some subject pursued.].

At the sound of their voices the doors of the temple were shaken, and the house was filled with smoke. It is possible that this was designed to express the approbation of the Deity, and his delight in that work which was the subject of their praise [Note: 2 Chronicles 5:13-14; 2 Chronicles 6:1.]. But we rather suppose, that it was intended to intimate the future abolition of the temple worship, when the time should have arrived for the complete establishment of the Christian dispensation [Note: Amos 9:1. with Hebrews 12:27.].]

2. The fear excited—

[In all the manifestations of God to men, the sight of his majesty has excited alarm and terror [Note: Judges 13:22. Daniel 10:6-8. Revelation 1:17.]. A measure of this feeling we behold in the prophet on this occasion. But together with this, there was also a deep sense of humiliation and contrition. As Job, on a similar occasion, was led to exclaim, “I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes [Note: Job 42:6.],” so the prophet, viewing himself, and all around him, in the light of God’s holiness, accounted himself a leper in the midst of a leprous world. Whatever he might have judged of himself before, he now was dumb; as indeed every human being must be in the presence of a holy God [Note: Romans 3:19.]; since “we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags [Note: Isaiah 64:6.].” From the apprehension and terror we are freed by the Gospel: but the humiliation and self-abasement should rather increase in proportion to the more exalted privileges we enjoy [Note: Ezekiel 16:63.].]

3. The consolation administered—

[Instantly did one of the seraphim fly to him, to declare, that his iniquities were all blotted out as a morning cloud, through the atoning blood of Christ. This was emblematically represented to him by a coal taken from off the altar of burnt-offering, and applied to his lips. Doubtless the performance of this office was a delightful service to the Seraph, who would willingly forego for a season the more immediate vision of the Deity himself, for the honour of executing his will as a messenger of mercy to sinful man.]

But we hasten from this more restricted view of the subject, to consider it,

II. As an instructive lesson to us—

Whilst we acknowledge that such visions are not to be expected by us, we may contemplate this with great advantage to our souls.

We may learn from it,

1. That a sight of Christ is the highest privilege we can enjoy—

[What is it that constitutes the felicity of heaven? What is it that is the great source of happiness to the seraphim around the throne? It is a sight of Christ enthroned in his glory. Yet was that sight afforded to the prophet in a vision: and afterwards to St. Paul, by an immediate admission to it in heaven. And is there no such vision to be enjoyed by us? To our bodily eyes indeed there is not; nor to our imaginations will any such view of him be presented: but to the eye of faith the Lord Jesus is clearly visible; and the eyes of every believer may even now “behold the King in his beauty [Note: Isaiah 33:17.].” In the Gospel he is fully revealed to us: there he appears as “the brightness of his Father’s glory, and the express image of his person:” and we may “behold his glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” We need not envy the prophet himself; for we may have even brighter views of Jesus than he ever enjoyed. We are told that John was greater than all the prophets; and yet that “the least in the Kingdom of heaven,” that is under the Gospel dispensation, “is greater than he [Note: Luke 7:26-28.].” How did he excel all others?. Others prophesied of Christ; but he pointed him out: “Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world!” And wherein do we excel him? He beheld Jesus when he came to accomplish our redemption: and we behold him after its accomplishment, seated on his throne of glory, and actually applying to millions of his people the full benefits of that redemption. Let those who embrace the Gospel know their high privilege. Let the poor especially rejoice and be glad. It is not to human learning or to strength of intellect that this discovery of Christ is made, but to faith: and if we search the sacred records with a believing eye, then will “God shine into our hearts, to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”]

2. That the more lowly we are in our own eyes, the richer communications we shall receive from him—

[Behold how speedily the angel was sent to comfort the mind of the dejected prophet! This was a faithful representation of the care which Jesus takes of all his afflicted people, especially when humbled in the dust before him. “He will not break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax, till he bring forth judgment unto victory.” Though he is “The High and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy, yet will he dwell with him that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the Spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones [Note: Isaiah 57:15; Isaiah 66:2.].” Does not his word universally attest this blessed truth, that “whilst he who exalteth himself shall be abased, the man that humbleth himself shall be exalted?” Be not afraid then, ye who feel your own unworthiness: give not way to despondency; say not, “Woe is me! I am undone:” follow not the unbelieving example of Peter, saying, “Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord [Note: Luke 5:8.].” But know that, if you feel yourselves lost, it was precisely such persons that he came to seek and save [Note: Luke 19:10.]; and that, “where sin has abounded, his grace shall much more abound [Note: Romans 5:20-21.]:” and if, like Mary, you are enabled to go behind him, and wash his feet with your tears, he will ere long say to you, “Thy sins, which are many, are forgiven thee.” Indeed it is in this way that he is daily acting by the ministry of his word: he sends his servant to take his promises, and apply them to the hearts and consciences of his people [Note: 1 Thessalonians 1:5.], and thus to fill them with “a peace that passeth understanding,” and with “joy that is unspeakable and glorified.”]

3. That a sense of his pardoning love should animate us to an unreserved surrender of ourselves to him—

[See the effect which was instantly produced on the prophet’s mind. God designed to send his messages of love and mercy to the Jews, notwithstanding he knew beforehand that they would prove ineffectual for their conversion. To carry such messages was a painful task; but yet, when God asked, “Who will go for us?” the prophet hesitated not one moment to offer his services, saying, “Here am I, send me [Note: ver. 8.].” Thus should we also manifest our gratitude to God for all the mercies vouchsafed unto us through the Son of his love. We should not inquire whether the office be pleasant; or, whether it will advance our credit in the world. It should be sufficient for us to know what the will of the Lord is; and then we should account it our honour to do, or suffer it. Especially does this observation apply to those who minister in holy things: if God say, Who will go for me, to carry my Gospel to the heathen? we should not stand to inquire, Whether the office be lucrative or not; or, whether the climate to which we are to go be more or less salubrious. No: we should stand forth and say, “Here am I, send me.” O that we all felt this holy zeal, and that we did not so lamentably “confer with flesh and blood,” when, if called to it, we should leave even the vision of God himself, to execute his will towards sinful man! [Note: This is a fit subject for Missions.] But, in whatever line of life we move, we should be actuated by the same spirit; and so feel the constraining influence of Christ’s love, as to live no longer to ourselves, but altogether unto Him who died for us, and rose again [Note: 2 Corinthians 5:14-15.].]

Verse 8



Isaiah 6:8. I heard the nice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send? and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I send me.

IN former ages, God was well pleased to reveal his will to men, sometimes in dreams, and sometimes in visions, and sometimes by an audible voice, like that of a man conversing with his friend: and these methods were more especially vouchsafed when he was about to devolve on them any particular office, or to employ them on any extraordinary service. It was God’s intention to send the Prophet Isaiah on a painful errand; such as, if he consulted his own feelings only, he would be very averse to execute. But to prepare him for it, God vouchsafed to him a vision of the glory and felicity of the heavenly world. The scene of the vision was, the temple, in which Jehovah, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, was worshipped. An assurance, at the same time, was given him of qualification for his work, and of acceptance in it: and by this he was brought to such a state, that, at the very first proposal from God to send a messenger to his people, he offered himself for the service, willing and desirous to undertake any thing whereby his God might be honoured, and his Saviour glorified.

Respecting the vision itself, I forbear to speak. The points to which I shall call your attention, are,

I. The proposal made

[In the first instance, the proposal referred solely to a mission which God intended to send to his people. And, in this view, it may justly be applied to any call which may be given to undertake the ministry of the Gospel, either in our own country or in foreign parts [Note: Here somewhat of a parallel may be drawn between that particular occasion and any other which presents itself for more especial consideration.]— — —

But we may consider the call as given to every one of us, not to undertake the office of the ministry, but to serve God in a way of general obedience: “Who is willing to fulfil my will, and to consecrate himself to me?” — — — This honour God is ready to confer on all who are willing to accept it: and, if we be really desirous to engage in His service, he will make us lights in the world, and monitors to all around us — — —

Such offers as these are common in the Holy Scriptures — — — and we may suppose it as now made to us, in the name, and by the command, of God himself — — —]

To the proposal so made, let us consider,

II. The answer given—

This also we may regard, in the first instance, as an acceptance of the prophetic office. And we cannot but admire the conduct of Isaiah in relation to it, when he offered himself to God without hesitation and without reserve. Here were no inquiries made, what the particular office was, or what would be the difficulties attending the execution of it. It was sufficient for this holy man that he should be employed in doing the will of God; and he was willing to devote to that service all his faculties and all his powers [Note: Here, if the subject of Missions be treated of, it would be proper to shew, that every Candidate for the office of such a Ministry ought to possess the very disposition which was here evinced.] — — —

But, taking the proposal as made to us in general to serve our God, we may here see what a spirit we should cultivate. We should offer ourselves to God to serve him,

1. Instantly—

[There should be no delay; no looking for a more convenient season. We should not be questioning, whether we shall be able to do all that is required of us; but should expect assuredly, that God will enable us to perform whatever we undertake for him, and will give a successful issue to our endeavours — — —]

2. Without reserve—

[We should not draw back from any labour, nor hesitate to make any sacrifice. The loss of life itself should be regarded as no loss, yea, rather as a grain, in such a cause — — — To live for God, or die for God, should be deemed equally desirable, if only God’s will may be done in us, and the Lord Jesus Christ be magnified [Note: Acts 20:24. Philippians 1:20-21.] — — —]

But the point to which I would move particularly draw your attention, is,

III. The peculiar obligation which lies on us to follow the prophet’s example—

You will find in the vision, that the prophet was favoured with a bright manifestation of the glory of Christ: for St. John, referring to it, says, “These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory, and spake of him [Note: John 12:41.],” that is, of Christ. You will see, also, that assistance in his work was promised him: for the putting of the live coal upon his mouth seems to have been designed to assure him of it [Note: Compare Jeremiah 1:9 and Acts 2:3.]. In addition to all this, a sense of God’s pardoning love, through the Redeemer’s sacrifice, was applied to his soul: for the live coal, being taken from the altar of burnt-offering, marked clearly the connexion between the atonement offered for him, and the pardon vouchsafed unto him. But in no respect do we full short of the favours conferred on him: yea, rather, we may be considered as having,

1. More glorious discoveries of Christ—

[Bright as that vision was, it was far inferior to that which is vouchsafed to us in the Gospel. There we behold Christ as “the brightness of his Father’s glory, and the express image of his person [Note: Hebrews 1:3.];” yea, we see all “the glory of God shining in the face of Jesus Christ [Note: 2 Corinthians 4:6.]” — — —]

2. More abundant communications of the Spirit—

[Whatever measures of grace were imparted to some highly-favoured individuals under the Law, as to David, Isaiah, Daniel, and others, the effusions of the Holy Spirit were very small and partial in comparison of those which are given to the Christian Church: so that none of us need to draw Sack from the greatest work; since the weakest of true Believers may say, “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthened me [Note: Philip. 4:13.].”]

3. More certain assurances of the forgiveness of our sins—

[Doubtless the vision, and that one promise given him in it, were sufficient to satisfy his mind. But in the New Testament we have promises without number, “exceeding great and precious promises;” so “great,” that they comprehend every possible state that can be imagined; and so “precious,” that they bring us into a participation of the divine nature [Note: 2 Peter 1:4.], and “fill us with all the fulness of God [Note: Ephesians 3:19.].” I can have no hesitation in saying, that were an alternative offered to any true Christian, to receive for his comfort the personal, and particular promise that was given to the prophet, or to have given him for his dependence the broad and general promises of the New Testament, he would do well to rest on those broad promises, which engage that “all manner of sin shall he forgiven unto men,” and that “all who believe shall be justified from all things.”]

Say, then, whether we be not bound to imitate the prophet, in his surrender of himself to God?

[Doubtless, if mercies vouchsafed are motives to obedience, we, who have received such transcendent mercies, ought to “present our whole selves as living sacrifices unto God; which, as it is a holy and an acceptable, is also a most reasonable, service [Note: Romans 12:1.]” — — —]

It may be proper, in conclusion, to reply to a question which will probably be asked, How shall I know whether any particular call to any special service is really from the Lord?

[I readily grant, that that is a point very difficult to be determined. There is no difficulty et all in determining that we are every one of us called to devote ourselves to God. The difficulty lies in reference to those particular acts which are required only of few. And here I must say, that no rules can be given which shall apply to all cases; nor perhaps any rules that shall be perfectly satisfactory to every mind. And probably, instead of giving a direct answer to the question, the best answer will be, to suggest a caution against those workings of mind which render the full solution of the case so difficult. Moses, we know, was called to go to Pharaoh, and to bring the Lord’s people out of Egypt. Now, in opposition to this call, he urged his own unworthiness of such an office [Note: Exodus 3:11.]; the improbability of succeeding in his attempt [Note: Exodus 4:1.]; his own utter unfitness for the work assigned him [Note: Exodus 4:10.];” and his desire that it should be transferred to some one else [Note: Exodus 4:13.].” Nay, he further adduced his own experience of disappointment in less arduous labours, as a certain ground for apprehending that he must of necessity fail in a matter of so much greater difficulty [Note: Exodus 6:12. N.B. Cite all these passages from Exodus; because they are, in fact, the very excuses which a false humility invariably suggests.]. But what were all these objections? They were, in truth, only so many excuses, urged to cover his own backwardness to undertake the work. Had he been in the frame of mind which the prophet manifested in my text, all these difficulties would have vanished; and he would have engaged in his work as Paul did, who was “not disobedient to the heavenly vision,” but “preached at once the faith, which, till that moment, he had laboured to destroy.” To any one, therefore, who desires an answer to the question that has been proposed, I say, Get your soul filled with love to Christ: and that will answer ten thousand difficulties, and constrain you to engage in any thing whereby the kingdom of the Redeemer may be advanced in the world. You will depend on your Lord and Saviour for “grace sufficient for you [Note: 2 Corinthians 12:9.],” and expect that “strength shall be given you according to your day [Note: Deuteronomy 33:25.].”

As to excuses for withholding or delaying a general surrender of ourselves to God, they are lighter than vanity itself. Think not that they can stand one moment, when you come before your God. To serve God instantly, and with Our whole hearts, is the duty of every child of man: and therefore, to the proposal which God at this moment makes by my voice, let every individual amongst you reply, “Here am I: send me.”]


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Bibliography Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Isaiah 6:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. 1832.

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